Against Me! / O Pioneers!!!

Against Me! / O Pioneers!!!: live in San Joselive in San Jose (2009)
Warner Music Group

Reviewer Rating: 4

Contributed by: Dante3000Richard
(others by this writer | submit your own)

In the interest of full disclosure I feel I should preface this review with two facts. First, I've always hated shows in San Jose, CA. More often than not, kids from San Jose would rather drive to San Francisco for a show than see the same show in San Jose. Those that do attend often seem to have ar.

In the interest of full disclosure I feel I should preface this review with two facts. First, I've always hated shows in San Jose, CA. More often than not, kids from San Jose would rather drive to San Francisco for a show than see the same show in San Jose. Those that do attend often seem to have arrived for the wrong show and stand cross-armed and apathetic the entire time. Second, I have never been a fan of the "larger band intentionally playing a smaller venue" routine. It seems a strange phenomenon that I just can't wrap my head around and it seems to happen in the Bay Area with pretty regular frequency. Whether it's Green Day at Bottom of the Hill (a venue with a 260-person capacity), Foo Fighters at Slim's (600-person capacity) or NOFX at Annie's Social Club, it seems some band is always trying to play to an overly crowded room, for reasons I don't understand. Maybe it's intended to be something special for select fans, a way to try out new material to a small audience or some vain attempt to reconnect with your roots, but the purpose of these shows has always seemed lost on me. That said, my excitement was noticeably tempered when I heard Against Me! would be playing a small art space, The Works, in San Jose. Still, in the interest of journalism (and a lack of excuses due to proximity), I decided I had to at least check out the spectacle.

Swinging by the venue early on my way to dinner, I noticed a line had already formed outside. Kids not in line were aimlessly wandering downtown San Jose looking for somewhere to purchase canned food (as you received $2 entrance cost with said can of food). After stepping inside I noticed the art space had been transformed for the occasion. All art was stripped off the walls (and presumably stashed somewhere safe), there was a small stage in the corner (something never seen before), and there was even a sound system manned by Asian Man Records' very own multitalented Skylar. The whole thing was quite different than any other show I've seen there. The only thing that looked recognizable was the opener, San Jose locals Hard Girls. It was clear the trio had brought some friends/fans along as a small group of people near the front of the stage danced and sung along to every song and even chanted requests for the band's fan favorite, "Beach Party." Though the group has two singers (Mike and Morgan), the set seemed Morgan heavy, with Mike only singing a couple of the songs he has lead vocals on. Regardless, they put on a strong set and showed why they're quickly becoming a more than just a local favorite.

Out of necessity (1 bathroom to 300-plus kids) and a love of irony, I stepped out to use a McDonald's restroom between sets. When I returned, Roll the Tanks were already playing. I'm willing to admit I listened to their full-length, Suffer City, once or twice and found nothing outstanding about it. However, in a live setting the boys were putting on quite a show. They danced, sweated and hollered their way through a set that was energetic enough to get the normally stagnant San Jose crowd moving. The live setting gave the band a much more Clash-style sound than I recalled from the album and ultimately seemed like a better medium for them than a recorded album.

O Pioneers!!! had the double-edged duty of being the final opener. It was great, because by this time the venue was packed with people (the doors were closed and in-and-outs were no longer allowed) and everyone is geared up for Against Me!; those most excited for them have already worked their way to the front of the stage, where they wait impatiently, like cross-armed sentinels until Against Me! comes on. This was only the second time I had seen O Pioneers!!! as a four-piece and, for a band that had functioned as a duet for so long, the additional instrumentation did not go to waste. The band sounded bigger and tighter than ever before and it paid off in big measure on all their songs, including their cover of Piebald's "American Hearts." Still, much of the front of the crowd was unmoving and packed so tightly that even those of us who wanted to get close were blocked out. This was probably the most frustrating (and typically San Jose) portion of the show, in no part due to O Pioneers!!! performance.

After the switchover, and some audience chanting, the long-awaited Against Me! came out to the first art space I've seen them play since the release of As the Eternal Cowboy. The band opened by tearing into "White People for Peace" and the crowd responded by breaking into a huge circle pit (oh yeah, that sentence just happened). I was interested and unsure what to expect. I hadn't seen the band in nearly three years and had seen various live footage since then of Tom ranting and various members walking off stage. However, tonight the band was playing like they had five years prior, jumping quickly from song to song, with little-to-no talking in between. On occasion, the band seemed to milk the audience with extended openings for crowd favorites (such as "Pints of Guinness Make You Strong" or "Miami"), but no one in the audience seemed to mind and the band looked like they were having a blast, so no harm, no foul. Against Me! culled quite a bit from their extensive catalog, playing tracks from Crime as Forgiven By up through New Wave and even included three songs from their upcoming album. And, despite the fact that a good portion of the audience weren't into Against Me! when their older albums came out, they sang along to songs like "Walking Is Still Honest" as if they had been singing and dancing along to them for years.

As a whole, the energy from the band was amazing and reciprocated by the art space full of sweaty kids so young they made me feel downright middle-aged. I'm still not sure if I fully understand the point of the intentionally small show, but at least this occasion was fully enjoyed by both the bands and fans, even if it left the art space smelling like dead ass.


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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Blackjaw_ (January 23, 2010)

Yeah everyone should be into Roll The Tanks. So if you're not, get on that.

clamum (January 22, 2010)

First three paragraphs are useless son.

thepopeofchili-town (January 20, 2010)

Well-written review. I'd kill for a show like this. I've seen AM! quite a few times, but it's always been in bigger clubs or Warped Tours.

gandhisvision (January 20, 2010)

I haven't seen AM! since '04 for this very reason. But I was tempted to go to this very San Jose show..

Dante3000 (January 20, 2010)

Regarding the "auditorium vs smaller venue thing", I enjoy smaller shows a lot more but that's why I tend not to really go to larger shows in general. Taking a band who plays to 1,000 audience (maybe not Against Me! but certainly the bands I mentioned earlier) doesn't make for a good "small show" for me. It's cramped, the venue isn't typically ready for that kind of crowd or general activity, and the bands still tend to pack in gear and publicists like a larger show. The ones I've witnessed are generally pretty lame. However, I do acknowledge that some kids would blow a gasket to see Green Day with 300 people. I wouldn't so I feel it's important to note that.
I did expect the crowd to know the older songs but was unprepared for the level of intensity they reacted with. They were clearly a much younger audience (I'd be amazed if the mean age was 21) and were very much into their newer stuff (the circle pit for "White People for Peace"), so I wasn't sure how much love the older songs would get but it was very much like the response they were receiving from their "old fans" back before they even released "Eternal Cowboy".
And no set list because there's no way I could accurately recall every song and I'm not taking notes but here's a rough idea of what AM! played (in no order), "White People for Peace", "New Wave", "Americans Abroad", "Don't Lose Touch", "Walking is Still Honest", "potatoes Rice and Bread", "White Crosses", "High Pressure Low", "T.S.R." "RAR", "Cliche Guevara" "Pints of Guinness". Lots more but I don't really recall the rest.

makeshifty (January 20, 2010)

Did you really think most of the crowd wouldnt know RAR? I really think you overestimate the number of new fans they gained with New Wave or at least the number of fans that listened to New Wave, liked it, but then didnt bother going back and absolutely getting blown away by RAR.

SonnySix (January 20, 2010)

rad in 2004.

PCS19 (January 20, 2010)

huh? auditorium shows are bummers. smaller venues are better. (period)

rupertmurder (January 20, 2010)

You guys seem fairly insane. Punknews reviews are never very in depth, but this one does get a bit into the specifics of 1) each band, 2) the locality and particularity for a city that needs more acknowledgment, 3) the fact that Against Me played new songs, etc. etc. Its not that bad of a review. Don't be dweebs, dweebs.

visiting_day (January 20, 2010)

Oi vey. What a horribly written review.

telegraphrocks (January 19, 2010)

No set-list = fuck this review!

Yeah! Fuck it! In the pooper!

Dante3000 (January 19, 2010)

If it makes you feel any better, I didn't even pay. I know a guy. A guy who....how can I phrase this....likes blowjobs.

ZachLeg (January 19, 2010)

lol @ e@zy

skankbook (January 19, 2010)

Sounds similar to their show in Knoxville last April (which I may or may not have reviewed). Glad they're still having fun & jealous you got to see O Pioneers!, as they don't play the Philly area often so I've never seen them.

eazyd2 (January 19, 2010)

yeah that wasnt really me, someone hacked into my computer.

good review richard!

jzstrong (January 19, 2010)

you suck at reading. he said in the review that the can of food was good for $2 off the door price, which i'm sure was not $2. also, he said they played 3 new songs from the upcoming album.

eazyd2 (January 19, 2010)

oh yeah i forgot this was dumbcunt3000. makes sense now.

eazyd2 (January 19, 2010)

wow poor guy has to pay $2 to see against me in a 300 capacity venue. do you seriously have nothing better to bitch about?

also, did they play any new songs? if so maybe you should have mentioned something about that dickless.

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